THE MIDSOMER MURDERS SERIES #7 (2006)

Producer: Brian True-May

Director: Sarah Hellings, Richard Holthouse, Peter Smith, Baz Taylor, and others...

Writing by: Anthony Horowitz, David Hoskins, Jeremy Paul, and others...
(Based upon the books and characters of Caroline Graham)

Starring: John Nettles, John Hopkins, Laura Howard, Jane Wymark

Guest stars include Nina Marc, Michael Simkins, John Norminton.

New series ("season" in U.S.) appearing on Biography Channel (cable TV).

Genre: Mystery/crime

Long-running series in the UK (ITV).
Broadcast on Biography Channel (cable) as two-hour episodes.
(Not yet available in U.S. or Canada on DVD but possibly available for viewing in the U.K.)

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

It's early days yet, as they say. This is only the first episode I've watched that has the new sergeant (John Hopkins) who replaces D.S. Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey), the "old" sergeant on the long-running series. According to press-release information, there is another episode that settles the question of what is to become of Sergeant Troy but it hasn't aired yet, as far as I can tell. It is scheduled to be shown on February 5th. Also scheduled for February 5th is one of the episodes from the new series.

"The Green Man" is apparently the final episode for D.S. Troy. "The Fisher King" has the new sergeant, Dan Scott but it is not the episode that introduces him to the audience. "The Fisher King" is being shown on February 5th immediately following "The Green Man" episode, so set your VCRs if you can't watch four hours of straight Midsomer Murders. (Luckily for me, I don't care a hoot who wins the Super Bowl, even if it is the first time the Seattle Seahawks have made it to the Super Bowl and I live only a few miles from Seattle!) But I digress.

The episode that introduces Dan Scott is titled "Bad Tiding" which I am reviewing here...in a moment.

I haven't made up my mind yet whether or not I like him. Overall, I'd say this episode was better than some from the 6th series, but still lacks the fun and tightness of the first five series. It's not so much that the writers don't have anything to work with, or that they've run out of crimes to perpetrate on the criminally vulnerable Midsomer district, it's just that they aren't doing much with what they have. Case in point. No one seems to have a clue as to what to do with Cully, the daughter of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby (John Nettles). For that matter, they haven't a clue with what to do with his wife either. But back to Cully. The actress playing the daughter's part (Laura Howard) is quite capable if given something to work with. The character has been a struggling actress throughout the entire series, taking up odd jobs here and there if it suits the story line. She had a nice actor boyfriend. Even though they seemed well matched, that relationship fizzled somewhere along the line (this is one of the instances where you realize why the credits say, "based on the books and characters of Caroline Graham." The TV series clearly doesn't follow the books. In the books, Cully and Nick-- or Nico, I think he's called -- get married.) Cully then moved on to one or two of the guest stars, who coincidentally, ended up dead. Next she seemed to be attracted to, or was supposed to be attracted to D.S. Troy. That didn't really fit the bill or work out either, especially since he's no longer in the cast. Now she seems to be flirting with the new guy. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I think the writers could use her character to open up the series a bit. Bring some new victims into the villages via Cully's access to famous and not-so-famous celebrities, and various other folks who might not ordinarily find themselves in the picturesque countryside of Midsomer. Why not make her a successful or at least regular working actress? Stop having her skulk around as if she's an ugly stepsister, or something equally distasteful.

But let's not dwell on the negative. Let's change the subject and talk about Sgt. Scott.

First off, how do you introduce a new guy to Barnaby (and the audience) and make it seem fresh? For those who have been following the exploits of Barnaby and Troy, you can't make Scott anything like Troy, right? Well, the writers bring the new sergeant into the picture by making him arrive late on the morning train from London. (And we all know how DCI Barnaby hates tardiness.) On top of that, he's charming enough, but not quite what you might expect. He doesn't want to be a copper in the countryside. He views this assignment as a hindrance to his plan for swift promotion. His "city ways" grate on Barnaby and the local villagers. It remains to be seen how long he will last as Barnaby's partner, or if he will ever gain the respect of the locals. Still, murder is murder and he's forced to muck right in on his first day of working with Barnaby. Someone has killed a woman in Midsomer Mallow and dragged her body to a grassy area in the village where it was discovered by one of the villagers passing by. The locals readily admit they didn't like the woman. She was seen and heard arguing loudly with her husband at the village hall during a Spanish dance night just before she was killed. It's up to Barnaby with the aid, or hindrance, of his new partner to sort out who disliked the woman enough to kill her and who might they kill next?

If this were the first of the Midsomer tales, I doubt there would have been many to follow.

If you are an ardent fan of the series, you may have a tough time adjusting to the new sergeant. That is, if you liked the old sergeant. If you didn't like Sgt. Troy or didn't find his homophobic reactions to gay men amusing, then you might like Sgt. Scott. For me, it's too early to tell. When I first watched the episodes with Sgt. Troy, I didn't like him. Now I do. So I may grow to like Sgt. Scott. It could happen. I'll know after I've seen a few more episodes with him in them.

For some reason the "new" series is being shown a bit out of order... Of course, that's not completely out of character for this program. As mentioned in an earlier review, the boxed set sold as "Series 1" is not actually the beginning of the series. Set #5 contains the first five episodes filmed.

Again, just a reminder. These new episodes are not yet available in the U.S. or Canada on DVDs. To keep on top of all of this, until the DVD version is released, you'll have to keep your VCR set to record. Be sure to check your local cable listings for times. Biography Channel is scheduled to show more new episodes for the next three weeks (February, 2006). I haven't seen any mention or schedule of repeat showings yet. Also note, they often show two episodes back-to-back. Usually one old episode followed by one new episode, so check your local listings to be sure you don't miss any. Right now, Sundays are the day the shows are airing.

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